Scott Feldman shuts down Tigers in relief

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was only three months ago that Scott Feldman was nearly a forgotten man on the Rangers' pitching staff.

He was just returning from a lengthy disabled list stay as he rehabbed from offseason microfracture surgery on his right knee and the club wanted him in the minor leagues to start the second half so he could stay stretched out as a starter. But Feldman's service time meant he had a choice: Accept the assignment or stay in the big leagues as a reliever. He opted for the majors, saying he was ready to contribute.

That choice was panned by some Rangers fans, who didn't want Feldman messing with the bullpen and were hoping he could be available in case a starter was injured.

"I just wanted to help," Feldman said. "If you understand the rules, then you know why I made that choice. I knew I was healthy and ready to pitch and contribute."

He certainly did that in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series. With starter Derek Holland struggling and the Rangers down 3-2 with two outs in the third, Feldman came in and gave his team 4 1/3 scoreless innings. He allowed just one hit and only two baserunners (the other on an error by Mitch Moreland) and had four strikeouts. Feldman pounded the zone with cutters and sinkers. He located well and changed speeds. And he looked in control.

"Everybody always wants to do well," Feldman said. "The only thing you can really know in the back of your head is that you're as prepared as you can be and you're going to try your hardest and whatever happens, happens."

Feldman went from 17-game winner in 2009 to a new contract before he made his Opening Day start in 2010. But he couldn't duplicate the magic of 2009 and was sent to the bullpen in the second half of last season, finishing the season with several DL stints and a 7-11 record and a 5.48 ERA. The knee injury cropped up and surgery was needed.

When he returned for the second half, he got limited chances early and did the job. He had some rough patches but spot started for Matt Harrison, who was given extra rest, in Tampa Bay and pitched six shutout innings. That outing made it easier for the club to spot start Feldman again for Alexi Ogando the following week. Feldman gave up four runs in five innings in Tampa Bay to the Rays that time. But he was eating innings and contributing.

When the time came to set playoff rosters, there was no question that Feldman would get the nod as the long reliever.

So if Feldman had taken that assignment, would he be on this ALCS roster as a critical long reliever?

"I think he would, yes," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "The plan was he would be a depth guy and could help us in long relief too down the stretch. He went from off the radar to on the radar and that's a credit to how he performed and the work he put in."

Feldman, who threw 49 pitches in those 4 1/3 innings, says he'll be ready to help the team when needed going forward in this postseason. He admits the bullpen is feeding off each other and he wanted to be sure he kept the good vibes going.

"I think mainly the No. 1 thing is we've got a great group of guys here and you know for me I can honestly say that was probably the coolest game I've been a part of. When I got done watching that game, I thought my beard was going to turn gray. It was nerve-wracking, but it was awesome."

Feldman was in the dugout when Nelson Cruz's grand slam in the bottom of the 11th ended the game and gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the series.

"I went down there for the first time we had the bases loaded and no outs and when we didn't score, I thought I had jinxed it," Feldman said. "But I went back down there. It was cool. What a win. I'm glad I could help."